Maine-made tofu, a passion product for the couple behind Maine’s only commercial soy beanery.
By Jesse Ellison
Photographed by Gabe Souza
Like many a Mainer, Jeff Wolovitz starts his day putting on Grundéns bibs and rubber boots. Unlike any other Mainer, he spends the rest of the day up to his elbows in soy pulp, soy milk, and soy curds, running Maine’s only commercial soy beanery, Heiwa Tofu. “It’s quite a spectacle,” he says. “We make a big, big mess.” Inside a former gas station on Route 90 in Rockport, he and his staff produce up to 700 pounds of Maine made tofu a day, averaging about 2,000 pounds a week. In a year, they go through some 50,000 pounds of organic soybeans, most grown in Maine, all of which must be ground, soaked, squeezed, cooked, strained, curdled, pressed, cut, and chilled.
By 7 a.m., stainless-steel tanks are steaming, and the air thrums with the whir of industrial machinery. Within a couple of hours, Wolovitz has ten active batches of soy in various stages of production. In a hairnet and elbow-length gloves, he darts among the equipment — 40-gallon stainless-steel bowls, industrial boilers, a massive grinder —pivoting on his heels, bouncing from batch to batch, here grabbing a giant thermometer to measure the temperature on a roiling vat of soy milk, there prodding a giant, undulating cheesecloth bladder with a wooden paddle. “It’s like a dance!” he shouts mid-stride, grinning. “There’s a real rhythm to it, a flow. I’m practicing my tofu ninja skills! I’m like a mad scientist!”